Category Archives: Books and Resources

Book recommendations, reviews, notes, etc.

Merry Book-mas

This Christmas I received a bunch of great books from friends and family.  My O’Reilly collection in particular doubled in size!

Here’s a list of what I’ll be reading in 2009:

Programming and Customizing PICmicro Microcontrollers, by Myke Predko

Programming and Customizing PICmicro Microcontrollers

Programming & Customizing PICmicro Microcontrollers, by Myke Predko, is probably the best book out there for someone who is starting out with the PIC series of microcontrollers from Microchip.  I used Myke’s book as both a tutorial and reference when I created my PIC RGB Video Display.  Since then, I have referred back to this book countless times even when working with other microcontrollers, like Atmel’s AVR family, because it contains so much useful architecture-independent technical information.  I have referred to this book for information about topics including LCD interfacing, debouncing switches, RS-232 serial interfaces, and multiplexed LED drivers.  As a technical reference it easily surpasses the majority of AVR books that are out there.

The book is starting to show it’s age by not including some of the latest PIC micros in the examples (like the PIC16F628), but the code is easily ported to newer/faster/better microcontrollers, a good learning excercise in itself.

The greatest electronics book ever written?

Getting Started in Electrionics, by Forrest M. Mims, III

Getting Started in Electronics, by Forrest M. Mims, III. is a spectacular introduction to the world of electronics.  This book is not new – the truth is that it has changed little since it’s first release in 1983.  Despite this, twenty-five years later, there is really nothing else like it.  This book is suitable for beginners of any age yet it comprehensively describes the technical theory and practical use of electronic devices like resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, transistors, FETs (including the now-rare JFET), and LEDs, as well as circuits like amplifiers, oscillators, and logic gates.  There is even a graphical introduction to device physics (semiconductor materials, doping, electrons and holes) and semiconductor fabrication!  This is kind of stuff they teach third-year students in university ECE classes, written in a way that is understandable to a child in third grade!

The entire book is formatted like an engineering notebook with handwritten notes on every page.  The illustrations are fun and make the book friendly and accessible.    Here is an excerpt from the chapter on diodes:

Getting Started in Electrionics, by Forrest M. Mims, III

My father gave me this book when I was six or seven years old along with a 25 watt soldering iron from Radio Shack.  I am convinced that this book, together with a Science Fair 160-in-ONE kit, is what caused me to pursue a career in Electrical Engineering.  I still enjoy leafing through its pages and proving to myself that I can understand how each circuit works.

Forrest Mims himself is an interesting individual and has led a prolific career as a writer and amateur scientist.  He is an active member of the Society for Amateur Scientists (SAS) and edits the Citizen Scientist.

The book even includes a handy guide to help you learn How to Solder!

Getting Started in Electrionics, by Forrest M. Mims, III

Thankfully, it turns out that this fantastic book is still in print. The groovy green cover is gone (a mistake, in my opinion), but the contents have not changed.  This is fantastic news for anyone interested in learning about electronics.  These also make great Christmas presents – I bought one for my brother last year and he loved it!

In my opinion, this is probably the greatest introductory book about electronics ever written.  I’d be curious to hear if anyone has any other favorites – leave a comment if you do!

Happy 25th, Getting Started in Electronics!

Horowitz and Hill: The Art of Electronics

The Art of Electronics, by Horowitz and Hill, has been referred to by some as the electronics bible.  Within its 1125 pages are everything from a “what is a resistor?” level introduction to passive and active circuits to a thorough treatment of op-amps, phased locked loops, logic family interfacing, and shielding and noise elimination techniques.  This book has some of everything, at least everything that was relevant to electronics engineering in 1989 when it was last updated.

True, this means it is horribly out of date with regards to computers, microcontrollers, and EDA/CAD tools – but this is a book about fundamentals, not the latest fad in physical computing (ie. Arduino).

The authors even have a cool website (admittedly it was last updated in 1999) with a list of unusual uses of The Book (note proper capitalization).

There are rumors of a third edition to be released in 2010.